October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I've been excited for halloween. It'll be the first year we'll have trick-or-treaters. Last year, I had one little boy come to the condo. He caught me by surprise. Previous years we didn't have a soul. I told Frank that we had to invest in our future and buy good candy. There's quite a few young kids on our block. We want them to remember we gave out the good stuff when they're teenagers. I bought two 120 piece bags from Sam's club. Frank didn't think that was enough. So, I bought a bag of 50 pieces from Walmart, last week. He still questioned if that was enough, I didn't have a clue. I picked up two smaller bags yesterday at Smith's. I think we're good, now. I hope anyway. Watch, we'll only get the neighbors' kids, and we'll be left with 300 pieces of candy. In that case our co-workers will be in for a treat.

Halloween used to be my favorite holiday. I trick or treated until I was 17. I dragged Frank out with me that year. See...

From Us

Several years my mom went all out for halloween. With the help of friends and neighbors, we held a haunted house in our garage. People came from all over. It was so much fun. I have a lot of good memories. Sadly, our fun was ruined by vandals. Two years in a row, decorations were stolen and damage was done to our property. It was a shame. Halloween has never been the same. This year, though, I'm looking forward to seeing the little ones dressed in their costumes.

October 29, 2008

Dreaming of Xpu-ha

Yesterday, I got notice that flights I’ve been tracking to CUN, Mexico had dropped. I found very reasonable fares during a week in December. I checked availability at Al Cielo, our dates are open. Checked rates for a rental, it’ll run $50 for the week. I emailed Frank with the info saying I know it’s not likely, but a girl can dream, right?

Later, after dinner, (which was tasty by the way. I made Grilled Beer Chicken, recipe to follow) we went to Trader Joe’s to stock up on all kinds of goodies. We were near the dairy case and I asked Frank if he wanted yogurt (TJ’s is the only place I’ve found plain similar to what we get in MX)? He said, nah, I’ll wait to have it in Mexico. I grinned from ear-to-ear and replied, SO, there is a chance… He said, yes! The lower fares make the trip affordable. We just have to wait to see if taking time off will be a problem. He starts his new job today, so hopefully we’ll know fairly soon. We just might find ourselves relaxing on the beach before year’s end, after all. Yay!

From Xpu-ha

And the recipe, as promised:

Grilled Beer Chicken with Potato Slabs

One 12-ounce can or bottle beer, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt, plus more for sprinkling
6 chicken drumsticks (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 baking potatoes
Olive oil, for drizzling
Lime wedges, for serving

In a resealable plastic bag, combine the beer, butter, garlic, chili powder, brown sugar and salt. Add the drumsticks, seal the bag and let marinate while you proceed.

Preheat a grill or grill pan to high. Microwave the potatoes on high until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Slice the potatoes lengthwise about 1/4-inch thick. Drizzle both sides generously with olive oil.

Transfer the chicken and potatoes to the grill. Grill the drumsticks, brushing with the beer marinade and turning occasionally, until the skin is golden and crisp and the juices run clear, 20 to 25 minutes Meanwhile, grill the potatoes until grill marks appear, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with salt. Serve the chicken and potatoes with the lime wedges.

Note: I cut the recipe in half and used chicken breasts in lieu of drumsticks. I didn't make potatoes. Instead, we had jalapeno cheese bread and corn for sides.

October 28, 2008

11 Billion dollars!

Wanna see what it looks like?

From CityCenter

That's CityCenter. My boss shared this great photo with me. Construction is coming along. Total cost is estimated at 11 billion and counting. The first phase is anticipated to open November 2009. I'm proud to be involved with the project. I can't wait until it's complete, one more year...

October 27, 2008

Change is coming

Yeah, I think we’re all sick of hearing about change. At least, the election is near. Then, finally, my phone will stop ringing, and my mailbox won’t be filled daily. Frank and I will vote early, today, after I get off work. But that actually wasn’t my point.

The change I was speaking of is that Frank was told on Friday that he’ll be transferred; he will now oversee two new properties. He’ll continue to look after one of his current properties, but will lose the other. Confused? It seems things are still up in the air, but the good news is that Frank still has a job. In fact, managing three properties is a bit of a promotion. He’ll take on more responsibility and face new challenges. I have no doubt that he’ll be a success. He will slip into his new shoes this week. The new position will have him working more hours and he’ll likely lose his Sunday’s off. Sunday is our only day together, so that is a bit disappointing. With any luck it’ll be temporary, and only last through football season.

So, this weekend was likely my least productive one in months. I had no motivation. Frank and I mainly lounged about, watched tv and enjoyed the football games on Sunday. We caught a movie, and just relaxed. The lull was much needed. I tried my aunt’s recipe for meatloaf. It was pretty good and easy to whip up. I’ll make it again.

2 pounds ground beef
1 package of Stuffing Mix (I used reduced sodium Stove Top - chicken flavor)
1 cup of water
2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)

Preheat oven to 400. Mix beef, stuffing mix, water, eggs, and BBQ sauce together until well combined. In a 13x9 pan, shape meat mixture into 2 loaves. Top with more BBQ sauce. Place in oven for 30-35 minutes or until registers 165 on thermometer.

October 24, 2008

Missing the little guy

A look at the fun we've had this week.

We played at Grandma's house. Nicky adores all the animals. We swam more at my house, acted silly and had a million laughs. We also went to M&M World and FAO Schwartz inside Caesars. Last night, my mom and I saw them off. I brought them In & Out to eat while they waited to board the plane. It was very sad to see them go. Especially, since we have no trips planned and no idea when we'll be together again. It'll take some time to get used to the quiet after the giggles, noise and chaos.

October 20, 2008

Kids grow like weeds

From Nicky

I couldn't believe how much Nicky has grown. He's at least 6" taller than the last time I saw him. That means he's grown about an inch per month. Craziness. Nicky will be two in two weeks, but he looks more like a three year old.

We've had loads of fun since Amy and Nicky arrived. They, along with my mom, stayed the night Saturday. We went swimming, did some shopping, played and laughed lots. Yesterday, we had a pre-birthday celebration. We sang happy birthday, and ate Spongebob Square Pants cupcakes. Frank thought he'd challenge Nicky to see who'd make a bigger mess with the cake. It was close, but I think Nicky won. Globs of cake in his hair gave him the edge.

From Nicky

Other fun photos from the weekend...

Nicky modeling his new Cars back pack.

From Nicky

Pretending he's a doggie

From Nicky

Playing catch in the sunroom

From Nicky

October 17, 2008

Dodged a bullet

Things were looking somewhat glum last week, fortunately, they’re looking up. First, Frank was sweating the unknown as lay-offs were occurring all around him. This week, though, he received reassurance that his job was safe; that eased our concerns. He’ll be retained in the same capacity and actually take on more responsibility, which he was completely open to. So, other than some restructuring and budget cuts, it’s business as usual.

Secondly, last week we also found out the buyer for our condo backed out. We were so close to closing, too. We were thrilled to see an end in sight, but that excitement was stripped from us and now we are back to square one. We’ve exhausted most of our options; we’re working with the bank to see what our next step will be. We’ll see how that pans out and go from there.

On the lighter side…

Temperatures are finally warming up, thank goodness. It’s sunny and 82, currently.

Tomorrow my sister and nephew arrive. They’ll be visiting until Thursday evening. I took Tuesday and Wednesday off so I can spend time with them. We’ll heat the pool and swim, we also plan to shop and take Nicky to the pumpkin farm. His birthday is November 4th, so I’d like to make a cake and have a celebration, as well. I’m ecstatic over their visit, I haven’t seen Nicky in six months. That’s the longest stint without seeing him. No doubt he's grown a bunch. Gosh, I can't wait to see for myself.

October 14, 2008

I didn't sign up for this

I moved to the desert for warm temperatures and sunshine. I did not sign up for cold fronts in October, also known as the perfect weather month. Normally, October is beautiful, with daytime highs in the 80’s and night time lows in the upper 50’s, until the 31st anyway, then it’s a gamble. Mother Nature pulled a cruel joke on us this weekend. We went from 90 degrees to 60 is a couple days time. Talk about a shock to the system. I haven’t been warm since Wednesday. Saturday morning I woke up absolutely frozen, it was only 63 degrees upstairs, downstairs was a bit warmer at 68. Outside temps topped out at 58. I thought it warm up as the day went on, but the cool temps and arctic winds stayed put all weekend.

Despite the cold, we made the most of the weekend and we played tourist. Our friend Shane came in from Phoenix, with his friend, Carlos. Carlos was in town for the Lowrider Super Show at Cashman Event Center. They both stayed with us. This was my first peek into the lowrider world, it was interesting,not really my style, but I can appreciate all the work that goes into the cars. I spotted many nice rides when we tagged along to get the car set up for the competition. Carlos later won 3rd place in his class, he has a nice pimped out 90’s Fleetwood Cadillac. One of his buddies' damaged his car when taking it off the trailer; he wasn’t able to enter it in the competition. We offered to keep the car at house over the weekend. Funny to see a pimped out lowrider in front of the house, never thought I’d see the day.

Saturday afternoon we hung out at TI’s sports book, watching games, betting on the ponies, drinking beers and making our football bets. We got the itch to play blackjack so we went in search of $5 tables. There was only one, a handicapped table. But the open seats were reserved. We opted to leave and head over to Sahara. It’s not the greatest place, but for whatever reason we’ve enjoyed playing blackjack there since the days of $1 blackjack.

The first table, Shane watched as Frank and I got slaughtered by the coldest dealer I’ve come across. We lost our buy-in in minutes; we left the main pit and went back to the tables between the poker room and Nascar Café. Found a friendly dealer (even the relief dealer was great), we each sat down and made ourselves at home. I lost my buy-in, again, in minutes and figured it just wasn’t my night. The drinks were flowing so I happily watched and cheered on Frank and Shane. They played for hours, we had a lot of fun, the dealers loved us, it was a great time, which was made even better when they both walked away winners.

We walked over to the Stratosphere to try our luck there. Not sure why, because it really is a waste unless you’re riding the rides or going to the observation deck. We forgot this in our drunken stupor. We did a lap around the pit, they had one $5 table open, 6:5. No thank you. We left, and headed downtown. Hunger struck, we went to Golden Gate’s diner. Patty Melt’s all around, they used to be so good, but these days they’re pretty crummy. Service was better than in the past, I’ll give them credit for that. After we ate, we walked over to Vegas club. We weren’t digging the vibe, I was tired, it was cold outside; we were parked there so we called it a night.

Sunday the cold continued. I was up early to prep for the football party we hosted. We watched all the games. It was amazing how many had us on edge until the final seconds. Great day for football, not such a great day for our bets, our parlays were toast after some of those last minute outcomes. We played cards, drank beer, grazed on snacks all day. Good fun. Everyone left after the Chargers game. Then, Frank, Shane and I went to Ellis Island for ribs. Tasty, as always. I went home after dinner, but the guys took a beating at Excalibur, Luxor, Sahara and TI before crawling in at four in the morning.

Yesterday, most of the day was spent curled up under blankets watching tv. Before Shane and Carlos left town, they invited us to check out the hop competition held at a park up North. We checked it out. In the past this event has been held after the awards show, but the last couple years there’s been shots fired. Bad blood between Las Vegas gangs, so I’m told. Anyway, this year they switched it up and the location wasn’t shared until the morning of. It seemed to work, everyone was cool; the crowds were mild while we were there. We waited around forever for the first match-up. It was over in a minute, it was neat while it lasted. The crowd ate it up. I was cold, and we didn’t feel like hanging around until the next match-up so we said good-bye to the guys and headed home. I snuggled up under the covers, and didn’t come out until we hopped in the spa. At least, that’s still nice. It was neat to watch the steam rise last night under the moonlit sky. Hopefully, this cruel joke will end soon, I’m over the cold. Bring back the 80’s, please…

October 10, 2008

Anyone remember?

Well, the days of twirling ribbon on a stick, plastic weights, and rocking out to my cassette tape are gone for this girl. It didn’t get me into shape then, and it sure wouldn’t now. Last year, I started really exercising regularly on an elliptical and treadmill at work. Rather than internet surfing on my lunch break, I made good use of that time by working out. I dropped all the weight I put on from injuries and illness, a little more than 30 lbs, said and done. I kept all the weight off until a few months ago. See, the second floor of our office (where the equipment is located) was left unfinished when we had it built a couple years back. This summer they’ve decided to finish it. Even as a contractor, it takes quite some time to get permits and subs in order. The work still isn’t complete. I haven’t exercised since early June, but I’ve indulged in all kinds of goodies. Restaurant week really did a number on me. Currently, I have 10 newly acquired pounds I need to rid myself of. I know exercise will do the trick. Fortunately, Sears ran another financing promotion this week, we bought an elliptical and recumbent bike. I’m in the process of putting the elliptical together. I can’t wait for it to be complete. I've found I actually enjoy dedicated exercise, it clears my head and reduces stress. Side effects are muscle tone and weightloss. What's not to like? Plus, it’s one thing I do solely for me.

October 7, 2008

Baseball is over

For us, anyway. The Sox lost yesterday, the Rays advance. I'll be rooting for them over Boston. It was fun while it lasted. All was not lost, we fared better than the Cubs. South Siders prevail!

October 6, 2008

Review: Table 10

As I mentioned before, Saturday, we tried Table 10 at Palazzo. We walked up at 5:00 and made reservations for 5:30. We killed time in the casino, and we were promptly seated at the patio upon our return. There was a team of three that assisted us. Service was excellent throughout the meal.

We were started with an amuse bouche of duck and arugula salad with cherry vinaigrette and candied pecans. It was a tasty bite. We placed our order and our meal continued right away with fresh baked rolls. They were hand delivered one-by-one, airy, and a nice yeasty flavor. We had a few more during the course of our meal. We split appetizers, calamari with banana peppers accompanied by two dipping sauces: spicy citrus and lemon parsley, and bibb lettuce with pickled red onions, bacon, and parmesan cheese topped with fennel dressing. The calamari was crisp and tender; we liked the spicy citrus dip best. It was good, but we couldn't help but compare it to the calamari we recently had at Capital Grille. We preferred their spicy rendition to Table’s 10 mild version. The salad was simplistic and fresh. We enjoyed it.

Entrees were up next, Frank had a leg of lamb with rosemary jus, kalamata olive mashed potatoes and roasted garlic. I had the rib eye, it wasn’t bone-in, but our waiter said it was prepared identically to the rib eye served at Delmonico. So, I couldn’t resist trying it for comparison sake. We, also, ordered sides of sautéed broccoli and asparagus. The lamb was juicy, it had great flavor, but Frank was put-off by the chewiness of the meat. Neither of us likes kalamata olives so we didn’t expect to like the mashed potatoes. Therefore, it came as no surprise when we both thought they were terrible. Certainly not a matter of preparation, just a matter of personal taste. My rib eye was good, but I missed the bone. That bone just gives the best flavor, one that can’t be reproduced otherwise. The veggies were well prepared.

We wrapped up the meal with Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee chocolate cake with espresso frosting and peanut brittle. And topped that off with a Jamaican Blue Mountain latte. Dessert was not too sweet, it was quite good. The latte was excellent.

The check came to $144 before tip. Overall, our experience was good, but we agreed that we would’ve rather dropped a little extra coin and gone to Delmonico. I think Table 10 would have fared better had we not dined at Delmonico before.

Still in it, and other happenings

We had a pretty low key weekend; it was a nice change of pace. Temps finally cooled down, and I was able to open the windows and turn off the a/c. It’s so nice to have fresh air. There were nice breezes on Saturday, too. We wasted away in the hammock for awhile. If there was a salty smell in the air, mosquitoes, and it was humid I’d swear we were in Mexico. The waterfall into the pool and the breezes whooshing through the trees mimicked the sounds of the ocean pretty well when my eyes were closed. Not quite Mexico, but it’ll suffice until we can get back to Xpu-ha. Our annual trip in December is still looking mighty unlikely but we are holding out hope that we’ll be able to swing it.

Late afternoon, we witnessed the nuptials of our friends. They tied the knot at Treasure Island. It was a nice ceremony. Afterwards, Frank and I headed to Palazzo, we decided to try Table 10. We made reservation for a half hour later, in the meantime, we wasted time in the casino. We played a few slots, but walked away losers as usual. Dinner was good, details to follow.

After dinner, we made our way back to TI. We planned to make a couple parlay bets, but we detoured when we spotted $5 blackjack. Yes, $5 tables at TI on a Saturday night. We jumped right in. I haven’t played in ages. We lost $15, but we had a lot of fun. We placed our football bets and headed home. Storms came through overnight. It was nice to hear the rain pitter patter outside with the windows open. I slept really well.

Sunday, we had plans to go off-roading. We met up with the others, 7 rigs total, we were going to do tierod again, and hit karnage canyon.

From Tierod

Someday, Frank wants the jimmy to have a similar set up to this truck. We need a roll cage before we can take off our hard top.

From Tierod
Unfortunately, we only made it as far as the second obstacle. We ran into issues shifting when the front lockers were engaged. We left the rest of the guys run the trail and we headed home… disappointed, but thankful we weren’t stuck on the side of the mountain or worse. There’ll always be more runs, it’s best to be safe. We made it home fine. Hopefully, whatever the problem, it’ll be an easy and cheap fix.

The rest of the day we lazed about watching all the football games, and rooting for the White Sox. Thankfully, the Sox pulled through and stayed alive to play another game. The postseason continues... Go White Sox!

The recipe I tried over the weekend was Apple Cereal Bars. Frank thought they were too sweet for breakfast, better as a treat. Either way, they're a tasty fairly healthy snack.

From baking

From baking

2 cups Whole Grain Total® or Total® Raisin Bran cereal
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup fat-free (skim) milk
1 egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 medium apples, peeled, very finely chopped or grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup raisins

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 to 2 tablespoons apple juice or milk

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. Place cereal in plastic bag or between sheets of waxed paper; crush with rolling pin.

In large bowl, mix brown sugar, oil, milk and egg. Stir in cereal, flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Stir in apples and raisins. Spread evenly in pan.

Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

In small bowl, stir together all glaze ingredients until smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over bars. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 6 rows.

October 3, 2008

Photo dump

Good-bye old kitchen light fixture

From House photos

Welcome new ceiling fan

From House photos

4th bedroom before, nearly neon green

From House photos

4th bedroom now, raffia cream

From House photos

From House photos

From House photos

master bath before

From House photos

master bath void of light house and seagull remnants, now if we could just get rid of the gold.

From House photos

pond before

From House photos

Pond expansion in progress

From House photos

From House photos

These birds hang out in our trees snacking on seeds, this is one of the noisiest of the flock.

From House photos

Roses are blooming again

From House photos

So is the bottle brush bush

From House photos

From House photos

I picked these gazania up last weekend. Loved the color for fall.

From House photos

And the last of the Ghiradelli cookies, I made. Actually, I froze some of the dough, it'll be interesting to see how that bakes and if there's any difference in taste.

From baking

October 2, 2008

Quick, Easy, and Tasty

I tried another new recipe for dinner last night. This one was a breeze to prepare.

One Pot Noodles with Chicken and Broccoli

2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 3/4 cups wide egg noodles, uncooked
2 cups frozen or fresh broccoli florets
10 oz. cooked seasoned chicken pieces (I used 2 grilled chicken breasts)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a saucepan, combine broth, milk and butter; heat to boiling. Stir in uncooked noodles and broccoli; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover. Cook 7 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, or until noodles are tender and most liquid is absorbed. Stir in chicken; remove from heat. Stir in cheese.

October 1, 2008

White Sox Win!!!

What a game! We were glued to the tv rooting for our boys. Meanwhile, friends back in Chicago were at the game. They sent us pictures, texts and we made phone calls back and forth. It was the next best thing to being there. Strong pitching, a DEEP homer by Thome, Griffey Jr.'s arm, and a spectacular catch by Anderson earned us a 1-0 victory over the Twins, and allowed us to clinch the AL Central.

Tomorrow, we'll kick off the postseason with a first-round matchup against the Rays. Let's go White Sox!!!